Roasted Vegetable Quinoa with Lime and Mustard Dressing

Howdy foodies. Apologies, it’s been a while. I’ve been busy, working, studying and wedding planning. The wedding is just over 3 months away. Eek! Jemima has also been running me ragged, leaving my blog somewhat abandoned. I have been busy in the kitchen though, I’m finding my stride again. And, we’ve been putting the outside kitchen and terrace to use for barbecues, hence this post tonight; to tell you all about a special summer veggie dish I made last weekend.

This really is a super simple and deliciously tasty quinoa dish, and it was a huge hit. Strangely, not only amongst my female guests as one might expect.

Richard often pulls a funny face at the mere suggestion of something like cous cous or quinoa. Like it isn’t manly enough for him or something. That said, he really enjoyed this recipe. Having to admit defeat and confess that it had “loads of flavour” in his words, although it probably pained him to say, no doubt. He sees food like quinoa as a ‘fad’ that nobody actually likes. I admit that plain quinoa would be bland, boring and quite frankly a chore to eat. Throw in the mix though some delicious roasted vegetables and a zingy dressing and it’s transformed into a bright summery dish that is a pleasure to eat.

The dish will serve about six to eight people as a side dish, or it would stretch to four weekday lunches for work. I know I enjoyed the left over portion for my lunch yesterday. I would say this is fine to keep in the fridge for around 4-5 days, just pop it in an airtight container to keep it fresh.



Butternut Squash & Feta Quinoa Salad

When I’ve nothing scrumptious left over from dinner the night before, or simply don’t have time to make lunch I pop to the supermarket in search of a ready-made salad or sandwich. Let’s face it, from time to time most of us end up eating packaged flavourless and quite often disappointing lunches we’ve grabbed on the way into the office. However, a few weeks back I was pleasantly surprised by a Tesco packaged salad – it was utterly delicious, but at £3 a pop it’s a little over-priced.
I decided I’d have a go at making it myself – and it was just as good. I didn’t follow the ingredients list exactly; as you well know these supermarkets love an ingredients list that’s as long as your arm. But, I ensured all of the big flavours were captured and it really was great.
The best thing about this salad is that its part of the Tesco Healthy Living range, so we know it’s good for us. I made a big bowl as a side dish for our barbecue and everyone loved it. This salad is so easy to prepare, the only cooking involved is the roasted vegetables. I bought the bulgur wheat and quinoa already cooked, so it’s really just a case of assembling the ingredients. What could be easier than that?
Cooked Bulgur Wheat and Quinoa (I used a mixed bag)
500g butternut squash (about half a large squash), cubed
Pack of feta cheese, cubed
100g cooked soya beans
1 can chickpeas, drained
Half a red pepper, diced
Half a yellow pepper, diced
Two handfuls of raw spinach, finely sliced
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
150g low fat natural yoghurt
Bunch of mint, finely chopped
1 small red onion, finely diced
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Start by placing the peppers and butternut squash onto a baking tray. Drizzle with oil and season. Place in the centre of a pre-heated oven on 180⁰C for 30-35 minutes.

Meanwhile re-heat the bulgur wheat and quinoa and place in a large bowl. Add the soya beans, chickpeas, spinach, red onion and half of the mint – season well and mix to combine. Once the peppers and squash have cooled add them to the bowl too. Top with the feta and mix carefully to ensure you don’t break the feta up. The salad is now ready to serve.

To make the dressing, mix the yoghurt, lemon zest, juice and remaining mint in a smaller bowl. Serve this on the side. 

Stir fried Garlic Beef with Oyster Sauce

Hoo Hing’s Chinese Supermarket

Have you ever been to a Hoo Hing’s Chinese supermarket? I had the pleasure of visiting the one in Enfield on Sunday, which was rather exciting. Really exciting actually, for a foodie it’s like an Aladdin’s cave of Chinese ingredients. You’d love it, assuming you like Chinese food that is. There is just so much to look at, it’s overwhelming really, with a hundred different sweet chilli and soy sauces, noodles and cooking utensils. I left with a receipt as long as my arm, if not longer, and still I hadn’t spent a fortune. Who knew you could buy 60 vegetable spring rolls for £2.65? I know what you’re thinking, I bet they were awful, but they are actually delicious.   
Historically, I’ve never been a fan of Chinese food, finding it all too gloopy and stodgy, often feeling like I had a hangover after eating it, seriously! I’ve always preferred Indian and Thai food, who doesn’t love a curry? But, I’m putting this down to bad experiences at poor Chinese restaurants. However, I’ve recently decided that it’s these bad restaurants that I dislike rather than Chinese cuisine itself. So, in an attempt to discover delicious authentic Chinese food I’ve decided I’d be better attempting to make my own, which prompted my visit to Hoo Hings Supermarket.
So, with my thinking cap on and a cupboard stocked to the rafters with tasty new ingredients, I set about making a delicious little beef dish with a fillet steak I picked up in Aldi for a few pounds, bargain! I marinated the beef in a little garlic oil, fresh garlic, ginger and some oyster sauce, before adding it to a hot wok and adding chillies, spring onions and green peppers and dried mushrooms (these had been soaked first). The almost sinister looking thick and sticky oyster sauce has such a wonderful sweetness that works beautifully with the steak and green peppers. Leaving it all to marinate couldn’t be easier, stir frying it takes minutes and you’ve a delicious, guilt free Chinese meal to enjoy in the comfort of your own kitchen without spending a fortune.
Before you read the list of ingredients and panic about the monosodium glutamate (MSG), let me just mention that it’s really a small amount and you use it instead of salt. All Chinese food, takeaway or otherwise will have MSG added; it’s a flavour enhancer and it really does make the world of difference – and used in moderation it’s completely fine. In fact, you’ll be surprised at just how many foods contain MSG. Next time you reach for a packet of crisps check the list of ingredients, they’ll most likely contain it – that’s why they are so morish!

Stir-fried Garlic Beef with Oyster Sauce

Serves 2

* 1 fillet steak, sliced thinly
5 tbsp Oyster sauce
2 tbsp garlic oil
2 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tsp of monosodium glutamate
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and grated
Knob of ginger, peeled and grated
2 green chillies, finely chopped
2 spring onions, finely chopped
Large handful of fresh bean sprouts
Half a green pepper, roughly chopped
Handful of dried mushrooms, soaked and drained
2 nests of egg noodles (thick)
1. Start by marinating the beef in a dish with the oil, soy, oyster sauce, MSG, garlic, ginger and green chillies – leave this for as long as possible, but half hour will suffice.
2. Heat a little oil in a wok (over a high heat) and add the green peppers and half of the spring onions stir fry for a couple of minutes. Add the beef and marinade and stir fry until the beef is cooked to your liking, only a couple of minutes for me. Add the bean sprouts and mushroom, stir well and continue cooking for another minute until the vegetables have softened.
3. Serve the beef on a platter, garnished with the remaining spring onion and a bowl of egg noodles on the side.
This dish is delicious washed down with an ice cold Chinese Tsingtao beer.


Paprika Chicken – Hairy Biker’s Style

In keeping with my healthy theme for January, I thought I’d call upon the help of my old friends the Hairy Bikers and one of their recipes that’s become such a go-to in my kitchen. This recipe is great because it’s not only healthy, it’s cheap and super quick to prepare when you find yourself in the midweek rush. Grab yourself some chicken drumsticks and thighs (skin on) from the supermarket, or even a whole chicken that you can joint yourself if you are okay with that, this is usually an even cheaper way of cooking a recipe like this and is perfect for a family meal. I often buy a whole chicken and have Richard joint it when we have his children at weekends as we love making a delicious chicken tikka masala, it works out great value for money. The kids can’t get enough; I think it’s the sweet red onions and the fact that I purée the sauce until it’s smooth and thick.
Whatever I’m cooking I like to have leftovers for my lunches at work, so I often make more than I need, and this recipe is perfect for that, it keeps well in the fridge for a couple of days. The recipe suggests using a blend of sweet and hot paprika, but if you’ve only one kind, such as smoked that’s fine, you will still get that rich red, beautiful paprika hit that that is oh so good with the sweet vibrant red peppers. The bright sunny colours in this dish remind me of the Mediterranean, perfect for warming your heart and belly on a winter’s night. And, you’ll certainly not feel as if you’re having a healthy meal when cooking up this gorgeous stew, the sweetness and spice work wonderfully together and you can still have a small fluffy mound of mashed potato to mop up the rich tomato paprika sauce; just go easy on the butter!

Click here for the Hairy Bikers Paprika Chicken Recipe!


Chilli & Garlic Prawns

A super simple supper that’s packed with flavour and goodness; what’s not to love? The simplicity is what I adore about this quick mid-week meal. It’s also something that is immensely healthy; with not a carb in sight it’s a good recipe to help you achieve that bikini bod. Unfortunately for me, I’m a little late, I’ve been on my holidays and never did establish that super trim tummy in time… but it’s never too late to try. I’ve pledged to get back into my running shoes next week, after a whole year off! God help me, I’ll regret all that paella I ate on holiday. However, all is not lost, with a few more meals like this one in the bag I’ll get there in no time.
Prawns are really the key here, because they have such a low calorie count, 100g of prawns has 105 calories, compared with 164 calories for half of a small chicken breast. Yes, I said half. If you are really not a lover of fish/ shellfish, why not try Quorn style chicken pieces, you can have 100g for just 89 calories. The trick is in creating a recipe that is stacked with flavour, but still manages to be low in calories and fat content. By skipping the noodles you’re saving around 200 calories, and trust me, with a recipe this delicious, packed with enough vibrant vegetables, you’ll hardly even miss them.
So, how do we create a tasty stir fry base? Simple, place your prawns into a dish, cover with the oils, soy, chopped chilli, garlic and basil. Refrigerate and allow the flavours to mingle for as long as possible, I suggest an hour or so, but if you’re in a hurry 15 minutes should suffice. You can add any stir fry vegetables to this recipe, the more colourful the better. I opted for sweet peppers and mange tout purely because it’s what I had in the house, but baby corn and spring onion would also be great flavours in this recipe. Be wary of using red onion, it would over power the delicate flavour of the prawns. Adding a large handful or bean sprouts would also be a nice addition.
8-10 shelled raw prawns
Handful of mange tout
2 spring onions
3 baby sweet peppers (red, orange and yellow)
½ large red chilli, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
Handful of basil leaves, roughly chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
½ tbsp sesame oil
2 tbsp soy sauce
Freshly ground black pepper
Marinate the prawns (as above). Meanwhile finely chop the peppers and spring onions, add these to a hot wok with a little oil. Once softened add the mange tout and the prawns and spoon in half of the marinade. Cook only until the prawns are pink and cooked through. This will only take a few minutes. I add the mange tout in at the end because i like it crisp to bite.

Season with freshly ground black pepper, easy on the salt, the soy will make the dish salty enough. 

Harissa pasta sauce with big flavour

This is a super simple sauce that’s healthy and packed with big flavour; delicious with pasta, chicken and white fish.  So, if you’ve a spare 20 minutes, I suggest you use it making a batch of this; it can be put into jars and kept for up to a week in the fridge, or frozen for a rainy day.
It kind of came together as a concoction of things that needed using up, which I often find is a great way to discover new recipes. The roasted peppers, onions and garlic give a wonderful level of flavour, combined with a splash of balsamic and tbsp of Harissa, it’s simply heaven.
Harissa is a North African spicy cooking paste made up of rose petals, garlic; red chilli peppers and a blend of spices (smoked paprika, cumin, caraway and coriander), although the ingredients can vary slightly depending on the country. Its most commonly found in Moroccan and Tunisian cooking, and is a popular ingredient in tajines, soups and stews. Harissa can also be used as a condiment, served as an accompaniment to many dishes.
This spicy little sauce really packs a punch, perfect for adding big flavour to sauces and stews. But go easy, a little goes a long way.

2 tins chopped tomatoes
2 red peppers roasted
2 red onions roasted
5 cloves garlic roasted
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp mixed herbs
1 tbsp Harissa (mix of garlic, chilli and rose petal)
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1tbsp sugar
Handful of fresh basil
Place the peppers, onions and garlic on a roasting tray, drizzle with oil and roast at 200⁰C for 20 minutes, once cooled use a food processor to blend to a paste.
Place a pan over a medium heat and add the chopped tomatoes, herbs, balsamic vinegar and sugar. Add the paste along with the Harissa. Continue to cook for 10 minutes. Before serving add a handful of freshly chopped basil. 


Red Pepper Pasta

Who doesn’t love a great big bowl of pasta? Great for a meat free Monday. The sauce can be made in batches and frozen for a quick weekday fix, it will also keep for up to a week in the fridge. The sauce is so packed with delicious healthiness; just go easy on the parmesan! You can add chicken or prawns to this pasta if you wish, but I think it’s just as good without. 

350g fusili pasta
3 red peppers roughly chopped      
200g vine cherry tomatoes
2 small red onions roughly chopped
Large handful of basil
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
Can chopped tomatoes
Grated parmesan 
Salt and pepper
Add the peppers, onions, basil, oil, balsamic vinegar, chopped tomatoes, salt and pepper to a blender and blend into a sauce (or until roughly chopped, depending on your preference).
Meanwhile roast the vine tomatoes and cook the pasta in slightly salted water, drain and return to the pan.
Add the sauce and heat through. Transfer to a large bowl, top with the roasted vine tomatoes, and a large handful of rocket. Serve immediately with grated parmesan.
Serves:                            4
Preparation time:          5 minutes
Cooking time:               15 minutes